According to linguist and English teacher Carol Read, flashcards are « an incredibly useful and flexible resource for teaching vocabulary »
In a previous post we explained why flashcards are such a valuable tool, and gave you some tips for using them effectively. In this post we’d like to dispel the myth that they are boring, and give you some inspiration for more ways to use them, other than the obvious “testing” method.
Here are our suggested activities for learning with single-word and image-based flashcards:
How to play: Look at the flashcard very quickly, just for a millisecond. Then try to name it! This can be done in both ‘directions’ (French>English / English>French) and is a great activity for increasing the speed of your recall and building your recognition reflexes.
- Slowly, slowly
How to play: Cover the flashcard, then gradually reveal it and name it as soon as you recognize it. Again, this can be done in both directions and is another great way to increase your speed and reflexes.
- What’s missing?
How to play: Stick your flashcards on a board, or lay them out on a table, and repeat the words in the series. Then close your eyes, remove one card, and ask: « Qu’est-ce qui manque ? » (what’s missing?)
This activity is going to test and improve your ability to remember words without much of a prompt or clue, which is a particularly useful skill for speaking.
- Memory game
A picture is worth a thousand words, so see below!
- Magic eyes
How to play: Lay out up to 7 cards in a row, and repeat them a few times with a rhythm, like you’re singing a song. Then remove a card, and keep repeating the series in this sing-songy way, filling in the gap from memory.
This activity is fantastic for learning common phrases, verb conjugations, and any other groups of words that are often used together (days of the week, months, fruit, weather etc).
- Lip reading (with a partner)
How to play: Have your partner say words silently and try to guess the words just by reading their lips. Using flashcards for this is helpful because it gives you a defined set of words to choose from.
Lip reading is an important part of human communication! It is one of the clues that speakers use to understand each other, even when speaking aloud, so it’s a really useful skill to practice. If you’ve ever used your target language on the phone, you’ll know that it’s much harder than speaking in person. This is because you’re not getting the visual clues – lip reading and body language – that are so useful for understanding.
- Flashcard riddles (with a partner)
How to play: Take it in turns to select a flashcard and then use vocabulary you know to help your partner guess the word on the card.
Example : « C’est gros, c’est gris, c’est…? » « l’éléphant ! »
Example : « C’est grand, c’est jaune, c’est…? » « la girafe ! »
This activity is fantastic for getting you thinking creatively. Imagine you’re in a shop looking for a broom, but you don’t know the word. If you wanted to ask the shop assistant for help, you’d have to describe what you’re looking for (It’s long. It cleans the floor. Witches use it for transport!) Being able to describe and talk around a word or subject is a really useful skill for language learners, so that you can communicate even if you don’t have exactly the right words yet.
- Grammatically savvy
How to play: Use cards with verbs, nouns, adjectives etc to form phrases. You can make your own cards for this, or combine sets you already have. Better yet, the game ‘Kloo’ has cards specifically designed for this exact activity:
- our own experience teaching languages
- Special thanks to Carol Read, Ideas for Using Flashcards https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9KebTgfLJI